The U.S. State Department has come up with a new tally of worldwide terrorist activity. According to this reckoning, some 11,000 terrorist acts took place in 2005, resulting in about 14,600 deaths. Iraq accounted for 32 percent of the attacks and 57 percent of the deaths. The prominence of Iraq is interpreted differently, depending on how you regard the 2003 removal of Saddam from power. Those who see the Iraq war as a way to draw out the Islamic terrorists and discredit them in the Moslem world, see all that terrorist activity in Iraq as a sign of success. Al Qaeda, and other Islamic terrorists, are mainly killing Moslems. This is making Islamic terrorism much less popular in the Moslem world. Those who oppose the liberation of Iraq, see that operation as causing more Islamic terrorism. It all comes down to whether you believe Islamic terrorism could be contained by police measures, and would eventually fade away, or that the Islamic world has to be forced to confront the terrorism it has spawned, and do something about it. In this respect, the Iraq war has been successful. Since 2003, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, where most of the 911 terrorists came from, have become much more active in fighting Islamic terrorists. Libya has renounced support for Islamic terrorism, and Iraqis are now major players in the war against al Qaeda, and similar organizations.
The current round of Islamic terrorism will fade away, just like past eruptions. But the current crew are more ambitious than previous ones. The September 11, 2001 attacks made that point, as did the threats of attacks with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Do you let the police take care of this? Americans and Europeans disagree.
There's also continuing disagreement on keeping score. Last Summer, the United States established new definitions for "terrorist attacks," that, it was believed, more accurately reflected what is actually happening. This is not a new problem. There has always been a some confusion over exactly what "international terrorism" is. In the past, it was defined as terrorists going to another country to commit terrorist acts, or local terrorists killing foreign visitors. That definition did not work very well with Islamic terrorism. That's because this often involves local terrorists, inspired by the call for Islamic radicals the world over, to go out and kill infidels (non-Moslems), just killing their infidel neighbors (or fellow Moslems who disagree with radical Islam.) So the National Counterterrorism Center now counts all the terrorist acts that have some international component. This is an important distinction, because there is still a lot of local terrorism. For example, most criminal organizations use terror to carry out many of their criminal schemes. A protection racket is one of the more obvious criminal uses of terror. Either you pay "protection" money to the gangsters, or they will hurt you. Terrorism at its most basic. Rebel organizations often use this form of terror to raise money to keep themselves going. Kidnapping is another variation, although grabbing people is also done for purely terrorist purposes, just to raise money, or a combination of the two.
Keeping score in the war on terror is always going to be a murky business. Terrorists don't always identify themselves, their motives or their goals. But if you are one of their targets, you're going to at least try to keep track of what's going on.